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The Work of the Association of Colleges 


Secondary Schools of the Southern States 


Reprinted from Vanderbilt University Quarterly, January-March, 1915 








Professor of History in Vanderbilt University. 

The work of the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools 
of the Southern States covers a period of twenty years, a period 
which has seen many and great changes in all parts of the coun- 
try, and in the South especially. When, on November 6, 1895, the 
Association was established at Atlanta, Ga., the condition of 
educational activity throughout the States of the South still ex- 
hibited the sorrowful effects of the war and of reconstruction. 
In Tennessee, for instance, the value of school property in 1894- 
95 was $3,092,503 as compared with $12,192,663 in 1913. In 
1894-95 the total receipts of school moneys in Tennessee were 
$1,573,404, while in 1913 the school revenues amounted to $6,955,- 


But even more disheartening than poverty or paucity of num- 
bers was the lack of proper standards of estimation for educa- 
tional institutions. In view of the weakness of the public school 
systems, it is indeed easy to see why many organizations which 
called themselves colleges — if they did not prefer the more ambi- 
tious terni "university" — as a matter of fact, were doing the work 
of preparatory schools. The work had to be done, and the public 
schools were not ready to do it. For this there was no blame to 
be laid. The question was whether this state of things should 
be altered as, soon as possible or whether the desire for numbers 
or mere unwillingness to advance should perpetuate it beyond the 
period of its necessity. 

The private schools, based upon private capital, were already 
influential and ready to support those colleges which fully recog- 
nized the place which belonged to the schools and insisted on a 
clear differentiation between the two grades of instruction. Hence 
arose the drawing together of these two sorts of institutions, the 
college or university and the preparatory school. 

The Southern Association evolved along lines similar to those 
which the like associations of the North and East had followed, 
but also found an example in a Southern State, the State of Ten- 
nessee. Here there had existed for eight years previously an 
organization known first as the Tennessee Association of Colleges 

2 Work of the Association of Colleges. 

and Universities, later changing its name to the Tennessee Asso- 
ciation of Colleges and Schools. This smaller Association was 
"projected," says a rare printed report of its proceedings, "by 
Prof. Charles Forster Smith, of Vanderbilt University, and Vice 
Chancellor (then Professor) B. L. Wiggins, of Sewanee, in 
August, 1887, at Sewanee." "The original object of the Asso- 
ciation," continues the report, "was to try to bring about some 
degree of uniformity in requirements for admission to college." 
This "original object," it may be truly said, continued to be the 
main raison d'etre for the State Association and was inherited by 
the larger interstate Association formed in 1895. 

The most largely attended meeting of the Tennessee Associa- 
tion appears to have been that held at Wall and Mooney's School 
on November 7, 8, 1895, just a day later than the important meet- 
ing for the organization of the Southern Association. Eleven 
Tennessee institutions were represented, five being colleges, one 
an "institute," and five preparatory schools. The constructive 
work of this State Association was begun in its first year, when 
a series of committees, consisting of two college men and one 
man from some preparatory school as advisory member, were 
appointed to investigate and report at the next meeting of the 
Association as to what should be the uniform requirements for 
admission to college. These committees reported on work in 
English, mathematics, Latin, Greek, and modern languages. It 
may be noted that neither the natural sciences nor history was 
included. A glance at the titles of the papers which were sub- 
mitted to the Association shows clearly that the literary and clas- 
sical elements prevailed in its programs. 

The work of this Association was interesting and promising; 
but its activities were limited to a narrow territory, the elements 
opposed to progress were powerful, and therefore a larger plan 
was conceived. The meeting of November 6, 1895, held at the 
Georgia School of Technology, was called by a committee ap- 
pointed by the faculty of Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt was 
represented by Prof. W. M. Baskervill and Chancellor Kirk- 
land. Dr. Kirkland was shortly elected secretary and in this office 
continuously served as the Association's permanent administra- 
tive officer until 1908, when he yielded his place to Dr. F. W. 
Moore, Dean of the Academic Faculty of Vanderbilt. Dr. Moore 
had been very active in the councils of the Association and had 
done much excellent work in the preparation of papers and re- 


JUN 2 mk 

Work of the Association of Colleges. 3 

ports. He served as secretary until 1910, when he was stricken 
with a fatal illness. During the year 1910-11 Dr. Bert E. Young, 
of Vanderbilt, served as acting secretary, became secretary in 
191 1 after the death of Dr. Moore, and is still acting in that ca- 

Returning to the meeting of 1895, one is interested in reading 
of the other institutions which were represented — the University 
of the South, Mercer College, Washington and Lee University, 
Trinity College, Wofford College, the University of North Caro- 
lina, the Georgia School of Technology, the University of Ten- 
nessee, the University of Mississippi, Tulane University, and the 
University of Alabama. Among the delegates present were Profs. 
W. P. Trent, Edwin Mims, H. N. Snyder, James H. Dillard, and 
John Bell Henneman. 

The purposes of the meeting were formally stated as follows : 

1. To organize Southern schools and colleges for cooperation 
and mutual assistance. 

2. To elevate the standard of scholarship and to effect uniform- 
ity of entrance requirements. 

3. To give the preparatory schools the right to exist by insisting 
that colleges refrain from doing preparatory work. 

These objects were more definitely summarized in the original 
constitution of the Association in the following paragraph, which 
has remained unchanged: 

Section 2. Object. — The object of this Association shall be to consider 
the qualifications of candidates for admission to colleges, the methods of 
admission, the character of the preparatory schools, the courses of study 
to be pursued in the colleges and schools, including their order, number, 
etc., as well as such other subjects as tend to the promotion of interests 
common to colleges and preparatory schools. 

The charter members of the Association were : Vanderbilt Uni- 
versity, University of North Carolina, University of the South, 
University of Mississippi, Washington and Lee University, and 
Trinity College. 

A distinguishing feature of the new Association* was the estab- 

*The title of the new Association was the "Association of Colleges and 
Preparatory Schools of the Southern States." Recently this has been al- 
tered to the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern 
States, an evidence of the increasing participation in the Association of 
the public high schools, referred to below. In this paper the present title 
is used. 

4 Work of the Association of Colleges. 

lishment in its by-laws of distinct standards of membership. It 
was not to be an organization of all ''colleges," but only of those 
which would set for entrance certain tests which would not be less 
than an agreed minimum. In this way membership in the Asso- 
ciation was made to depend upon a test of educational status, and 
the problem of entrance to college and many kindred questions of 
educational policy were subjected to corporate control. When 
the Association was first organized, the subjects to be accepted for 
entrance were limited to English, history and geography, mathe- 
matics, Latin and Greek. At the fifth meeting there was proposed 
the addition of German, French, and science, and this legislation 
was carried into effect in 1902. In 19 10 an important amendment 
to the by-laws made more rigid the standard for admission to 
colleges in the Association, and in 191 3 this standard was by 
another amendment raised still higher. Thus we have the present 
law of the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, which 
represents the placing of the Southern schools which conform to 
it upon a basis national in character. The rule now reads : 

By-Law 3. 

Fourteen units are required of all students admitted to college. Condi- 
tions are allowed to the extent of two units only, and all conditions or 
deficiencies should be removed before the beginning of the second year in 
college. College work done to remove conditions must not be counted 
toward a degree. Students may be admitted either on certificate or on 
examination, but they must in all cases comply with the above require- 
ments as to the amount of work offered. The Association strongly recom- 
mends that all candidates be required to offer English and mathematics 
and that all candidates for a degree course in the college of liberal arts 
be required to offer in addition the necessary preparation in two foreign 

The Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools has 
strengthened its activities and increased its influence by meeting 
in one after another of the educational centers of the South. 
Frequently the meeting of the Association has been an element 
of the greatest importance in arousing local interest in the im- 
provement of educational conditions. Noteworthy addresses have 
been delivered before these meetings and have been later published 
in the printed "Proceedings" of the Association. Great value 
attaches to some of the reports submitted to the Association, such 
as that presented in 1899 by Chancellor Kirkland, which was di- 
rected toward the establishing of a program' for high schools, and 

IVork of the Association of Colleges. $ 

that of Dr. Frederick W. Moore, of Vanderbilt, and Prof. J. L. 
Henderson, of the University of Texas, submitted in 1910, which 
dealt with the administration of the system of admission to col- 
lege by certificate. 

The Association has interested itself in the subject matter of 
the school course and has kept closely in touch with those bodies 
which have in their care the setting of national standards. Thus 
for years the Association was represented in the National Com- 
mittee on College Admission Requirements in English. In this 
connection it may be noted that the Commission on Accredited 
Schools, of which an account is given below, in 1913 appointed 
ten committees to examine, respectively, the following subjects as 
taught in the high schools, with recommendations as to a proper 
standardization of the subject matter to be included in the courses 
of the schools. The subjects are: English, modern languages, 
manual training, ancient languages, mathematics, commercial 
branches, history, the exact sciences, the biological sciences, and 

Among the special activities fostered by the Association, one 
of special interest was the establishment of a system of uniform 
examinations for entrance. At the tenth annual meeting Prof. 
P. H. Saunders, then of the University of Mississippi, submitted 
a report on the advisability of this plan, which received the ap- 
proval of the Association. While in some respects the system of 
the College Entrance Examination Board, so well known and so 
effective in the Eastern States, served as a model for the South- 
ern Association, on the whole the plan of administration adopted 
by the Uniform Entrance Examination Committee was rather 
different. In the former examination questions on the various 
subjects demanded for entrance to colleges are set by committees 
under the authority of the central board, the examinations are held 
at a fixed date under the authority of the board, and the papers 
are graded by committees of readers also appointed by the board. 
In the plan of the Southern Association only the making of the 
questions was undertaken by the central committee, which fur- 
nished sets of the questions to the colleges or to the schools. The 
holding of examinations and the grading of the questions were left 
to the several colleges. This in itself constituted a great weak- 
ness in the system as compared with that of the College Entrance 
Examination Board. It was thought necessary, moreover, to 
fix definitely the date for the examinations. This constituted 

6 Work of the Association of Colleges. 

another great limitation upon the usefulness of the plan because 
of the fact that both colleges and schools in the South varied so 
greatly in the times of their commencements and final examina- 
tions. Through the lengthening of the terms of the schools and 
through the resulting tendency to a greater uniformity this par- 
ticular obstacle to the use of the uniform examinations might 
have been gradually overcome. Yet in 19 12 the examinations 
were discontinued. The deeper reason for the abandonment of 
this experiment was one which rendered the whole idea of exam- 
ination for entrance far less important, the growth of the practice 
of admitting students to college by certificates from accredited 

While the older East has not been unaffected by the movement 
to substitute certification for examination as the test of capacity 
to enter upon college work, the home of the certification system 
has been the West; and the Southern Association has now defi- 
nitely accepted this guidance. The change has come about largely 
through an evolution which is one of the most gratifying and 
encouraging within the horizon of the Southern college. The 
situation of the common schools in the South has so enormously 
improved that the relations of colleges and schools will soon be 
determined by the standards of the State universities with their 
affiliated public school system. Held back thus far by the insuffi- 
ciency of the preparatory education afforded by the State, the 
State universities have lagged behind Vanderbilt and other private 
institutions in regard to the elevation of standards. Henceforth 
the former will lead; and as this situation has developed, it has 
become possible for the Association of Colleges and Secondary 
Schools to establish a system of joint certification and inspection 
somewhat like that which has been adopted in the Middle West. 

For the last five years the Association has worked to this end 
with the result that there has been created a Commission on Ac- 
credited Schools, of which Prof. Joseph S. Stewart, of the Uni- 
versity of Georgia, has been Chairman and Prof. N. W. Walker, 
of the University of North Carolina, Secretary since its organiza- 
tion. In its reports for 1913-14 the Commission gives testimony 
to the good influence which its work has already begun to exert. 
There are now upon its accredited list two hundred and seventy- 
eight schools as against one hundred and fifty-two in 1913-14. 
The emphasis laid in the requirements of the Commission upon 
the need of educated teachers has begun to bear fruit. Attention 

Work of the Association of Colleges. 7 

is being paid to the demand that the average number of students 
to the teacher shall not be too high and to the requirement that 
the teacher shall not have too many classes. Equipment and 
physical condition have been bettered. For all these changes for 
the better the South has a right to be thankful. It is to be hoped 
that the Commission will gradually pursue a more rigid policy, 
for the need of reform is a crying one. It is to be hoped also 
that the colleges as well as the schools will support the Commis- 
sion, for on the part of the colleges the practice of admitting 
students upon certificate has often been characterized by an un- 
fortunate laxity of administration. 

This close relation to the public schools should react to the 
benefit of the colleges and secondary schools through the greater 
participation of the public high schools in the work of the Asso- 
ciation. From the very first the attitude of the Association has 
been kindly. At the meeting in 1895 the Association put itself 
on record as being heartily sympathetic with the public school 
system. For many years, however, the pubHc schools, as a rule, 
were unable to meet the requirements of the Association. Every 
year, fortunately, the number of such schools becomes less. 

In the way of affiliations with national organizations, the Asso- 
ciation has been a member of the National Conference Committee 
on Standards of Colleges and Secondary Schools from the incep- 
tion of the latter. The members of this Conference Committee 
are: The New England Association of Colleges and Preparatory 
Schools, the New England College Entrance Certificate Board, 
the Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools of the Mid- 
dle States and Maryland, the College Entrance Examination 
Board, the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary 
Schools, the Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools of 
the Southern States, the National Association of State Universi- 
ties, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 
and the United States Commissioner of Education. The Asso- 
ciation has also long been a member of the National Conference 
on Uniform Entrance Requirements in English. It has usually 
been represented at the annual meetings of these national or- 

To one other very interesting expression of the indirect influ- 
ence exerted by the Association must reference be made. Some- 
time ago, in Virginia, and later in Alabama, State Associations 
were formed to carry out the same ideals as those which in- 

8 Work of the Association of Colleges. 

spired the work of the Association of Colleges and Preparatory 
Schools. This appearance of the State Association might seem a 
reversion to the condition of things before 1895, ^^t important 
differences are to be observed. These more recent State organi- 
zations are, in the first place, practically branches of the larger 
body; and, in the second place, they have a much more positive 
program than the old Tennessee Association. They fix the mini- 
mum standard for entrance (though this, of course, is lower than 
that of the Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools ) , and 
they require publicity as a part of the enforcement of these regu- 
lations. It may be that in the growth of such State Associations 
there lie great possibilities of usefulness. 

This article is hardly to be concluded without a reference to 
some of the other agencies which have been responsible to a great- 
er or less degree for the marked improvement of recent years. 
Reference should be made to the Southern Educational Associa- 
tion, which has stimulated so greatly the work of the public 
schools ; to the Conference for Education in the South, which has 
served to acquaint North and South with the contributions which 
each can make toward national advance; to the educational com- 
mittees of some religious bodies, especially that of the Methodist 
Church, South; but particularly to the Carnegie Foundation for 
the Advancement of Teaching. In the case of the last, in addition 
to the undoubtedly powerful economic stimulus which the Foun- 
dation, by its definitions and requirements, has held out to the col- 
leges of the South and especially the State universities, the impor- 
tant information and keen criticism of its bulletins and reports 
have been valuable agents working toward improvement. But 
while giving all due recognition to this, the public should not for- 
get the slow, steady, and still advancing work of the purely 
academic and entirely unendowed Association of Colleges and 
Secondary Schools of the Southern States.